The Value of Written Prayers
Perhaps, like me, you grew up thinking written prayers were somehow less spiritual, less meaningful, less authentic. As if the act of reading a prayer automatically diminished its value or spirituality. I can certainly remember feeling those who read out a written prayer, especially in a corporate gathering, were somehow cheating. I have a feeling I’m not alone. Broadly speaking, modern evangelical Christians tend to prefer spontaneity and passion in worship over specificity and precision. This, I think, can be to our detriment.
I recently started reading ‘Everyday Prayers’ by Scotty Smith, a collection of 365 Scripture-centred prayers. I’m aiming to read one prayer before bed each night. To be honest, when I fall into bed at night, I find it difficult to fight off sleep long enough to pray for any meaningful amount of time. So, I’ve enlisted Scotty’s help. Scotty is providing words for my heart and mind at a time when I don’t always have them for myself. So far, I’ve been greatly enriched and blessed by Scotty’s prayers.
Of course, Scotty is not alone in this pursuit. The Christian church has a long and rich history of written prayers. Perhaps most notably and most enduringly helpful is the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, available as an app, on the web, or in physical book form. Others include The Valley of Vision, a rich collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, and Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans by Robert Elmer. And we shouldn’t forget the Bible’s very own book of written prayers, the Psalms. The Psalms are not just to be read, but prayed through; not just words to be studied, but fuel for the fire of our prayers.
There are good reasons to embrace written prayers, both in our private devotions and in corporate worship. Of course, the main reason is that written prayers can teach us more about God and who we are. They can take us deeper into God’s heart and character than we might otherwise have gone on our own. There might also be times when you don’t know what to pray, or your prayer life has become stunted and myopic, praying the same things over and over. Or perhaps your prayer life has become selfish and inward looking. It’s in these times that written prayers can help. They can broaden our horizons and deepen our devotion. Additionally, many of these prayers have been tested over time, enabling us to learn from our Christian brothers and sisters from the past.
So, why not give it a go yourself? Why not incorporate some written prayers into your devotional life? Approached with the right attitude and heart, they’re certainly just as valuable and meaningful as the prayers that flow from our own hearts and lips.
Grace and peace,